In the News  Archive

Editorial Board visit with Lake Placid News: Willie Janeway, Adirondack Council

January 22, 2015
Lake Placid News

By Andy Flynn

(This is the second part of a two-part interview. The first part was published in the Jan. 9 issue.)

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn spoke with Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway on Friday, Dec. 26 at the LPN office.

LPN: How far ahead does the Adirondack Council look? Do you look 100 years from now to see what you want the Adirondack Park to look like?

JANEWAY: We absolutely think about that, and we're not the only ones. It's critical to do both, thinking 50 to 100 years ahead and thinking, "So what do we do tomorrow?" But doing both so that the steps we take on a day-to-day basis lead us toward that vision.

The Adirondack Council is a real leader in the past and still is now. In 1988, 1990, we put out a series called 20/20. It was a vision of what the Adirondack Council thought the Park should look like. It listed properties we thought should be acquired and added to the Forever Wild preserve. It listed areas where wild forest lands could be protected. It identified places where snowmobile networks were important. It was a really groundbreaking document, and when I re-read it a year ago, I found myself thinking, "Why did the Adirondack Council need to create this vision and list out what properties should be protected? The state has an Open Space Plan."

Then I realized that when the Council put out the Vision 20/20, the state did not have an Open Space Plan either for the Adirondacks or for the entire state of New York.

Now the state has an Open Space Plan that is just being updated now which is a broad consensus process that identifies priorities for the entire state for open space conservation. So one of the projects the Council is looking to engage in - not by ourselves but with others - is "What should the Park look like in 2050?" Let's update the Vision 20/20. But let's not just do it as some environmentalists, thinking about it from an environmental perspective. Let's partner with local government, partner with other stakeholders, and together develop an updated vision of what the Park should look like in the year 2050.

... The Common Ground Alliance, which has had dialogue for seven years now about where we agree and what the Park should look like, has agreed that we should have a model of a sustainable Park: environmental protection coupled with vibrant communities. That's the easy part. The hard part is in the details. We just did this Blueprint for the Blue Line just in time for 2015.

LPN: Tell me about the Blueprint for the Blue Line.

JANEWAY: The Blueprint identifies 15 priorities we hope state leaders will embrace. We hope to hear about some of these in the State of the State and more importantly see the details in the budget release. But there are three items specifically that jump out at us.

Number one, the state has billions of dollars it is receiving this year for bank settlement funds. Thankfully there's a growing consensus from the governor and legislative leaders to use the majority if not all those funds for some sort of infrastructure-type bank. The Common Ground Alliance is saying, "Let's make sure the fund is set up so some of that will help the Adirondacks with clean water infrastructure." Everyone knows we have to protect the clean water of the Adirondacks, for the loons, for the jobs, for the real estate business. We all need clean, healthy water. That means we have to invest in infrastructure. ... We don't need loans. We need grants that can be combined with private and municipal investment. ...

Number two is much smaller money but really important, the operational side of things for our partners in state. Make sure the Adirondack Park Agency has some staff in place to be circuit riders, to go out to communities and help them identify projects that are priorities for them, how to design them right environmentally and expedite the permitting process so those can be done. Rather than having the Park Agency not have enough staff, sitting in Ray Brook and responding to incoming proposals in a defensive mechanism, have some additional staff, restoring some of the positions that were cut during the lean years, now that we have this budget surplus, and have the Park Agency go back out and be proactive and helpful. ...

Number three of the Common Ground Alliance is looking at policy updates, opportunities to look at science-based improvement to 1970s-era Adirondack Park Agency regulations of how we can better protect the environment and better incentivize smart sustainable economic development. The details there have to be worked out. The devil is in the details for sure.

LPN: Based on your experiences working outside the Park and inside the Park, do you see any differences in the way people look at the Park, inside versus outside?

JANEWAY: Yes, I think that people outside the Park don't appreciate how difficult it is to raise a family and have a job in the Adirondack Park. They see these quaint Adirondack communities, and they think, "Oh, how nice that is."

I think people in the Park have a very similar appreciation for how special this wild place is and the wildlife and the clean water and the open space. ... While there are differences between how people perceive the Adirondack Park, both inside and outside, and what its challenges are, I think there's a lot of agreement too, and I think there's a lot of interest across the state for helping make sure the Park and its communities are successful going forward.

LPN: Most of the policy makers who make decisions about the Adirondack Park don't live here. How do you get out there and spread the message? Do you have a different message for residents and visitors?

JANEWAY: No, we have a very consistent message. The Adirondacks are globally unique. This is a national treasure. Let's preserve the clean water and wild character and make sure the communities are vibrant.

We have a very strong Adirondack delegation in Albany from the North Country, members of the Senate and Assembly. They understand the issues. They understand how special the Park is. Equally important, they understand the politics of New York state.

They get help for the communities and the Adirondack Park by working with their colleagues who are representing people on Long Island, Buffalo, Syracuse and the New York City area.

At the Council, we have members throughout the state, all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. On federal issues and state issues, we and our lobbyists and educators ... we can approach people from all over the state about the Adirondacks with members of our organization who live in the districts with people from all over the state. So we don't have to think of the Adirondack delegation as a little tiny delegation working on its own. ... Like Sen. Betty Little, she has good relationships with people from other parts of the state. That allows us to have a common message that builds better support.

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